This is a fanzine that I published which has the second Dark Crystal story I did, using characters from the first story. I also have used elements of the history of Thra which I made up, trying to figure out some things, among them how Gelfling could possibly have survived somewhere else on the planet. If only Jen and Kira had survived, then, unless their biology is radically different from humans, they would need more than just two people to build up a viable gene pool. It is possible, of course, for something magical to be involved, but the same did not establish anything that would indicate any kind of actual magic on Thra.
I do know, of course, that this is a 'Mary Sue' type of publication and isn't really of professional quality, but I really liked the film and wanted to do take a look at what might have happened after the ending of the film.
This version of the story has been altered from its original appearance in a fanzine I did some years ago.
Chapter One: The Wizard
The wizard and his prisoner stood on the rare patch of dry ground and surveyed their surroundings. In all directions lay a thick, nearly impenetrable swamp, myriads of strange plants competing for every inch of growing space they could find. Small pools of sickly colored water gave off a stench that assailed the nostrils of the wizard and his female captive.
A bloated red sun hung low in the sky, lending an eerie cast to the already evil-appearing landscape. Multitudes of small insects sang, jumped and flew through the air, alighting on the two humanoid invaders of their homeland, then quickly jumping off to pursue their interests elsewhere.
'We are close. I can feel it,' said the wizard, almost in a whisper. The girl, long ago placed under his hypnotic poewr, failed to respond. her long blond hair hung down loosely on her shoulder, her milky-white skin showing no signs of imperfections anywhere. She was to be the sacrifice, and she had to be as near perfect in physical appearance as was possible.
The wizard's name was Bal-maron, from the planet Allengore, a planet of highly advanced wizards who had spent eons studying the mystic arts. Bal-maron was taller than most of the otehr wizards with long, dark hair and a set of small, beady eyes that always seemed to watch everything that was happening everywhere around him. He was known as an independent wizard, a trait which had gotten him into trouble on many occasions with the ruling Council. His current trip to this swampy planet had, in fact, been banned by the Council, but Bal-maron had shown his usual defiance and managed to slip away from their observations.
For his part Bal-maron considered the other wizards foolish old dodderers who didn't have the sense to use their talents to their own benefit. He firmly believed that the others were jealous of his talents, which were admittedly considerable, and that they would eventually try to arrest him and submit him to some form of selective mindwipe just to stop him from reaching his full potential.
His voice, when he spoke, was dark and malignant, his breath smelling of foul foods that he had eaten and had unsuccessfully attempted to digest. Usually he made some form of hissing or grunting sounds, using regular speech rarely, preferring to intimidate others by his mere physical presence.
'The temple is this way,' the wizard said to the girl and then began to pull on her arm, forcing her to follow him through the much of the swamp. the wizard looked momentarily at the girl and laughed to himself.
'You have the body of a goddess, woman. The dark gods will be most pleased.' They made their way stumbling through the deep grass and the ever-present pools of foul water. A short time later they stopped once again.
'The old legends were right,' the wizard said, his voice full of awe. 'It was worth killing those foolish monks to steal the Terbuk manuscript from their library. The Temple of Darkness is exactly where the writings said it would be.'
He looked at the exterior of the temple carefully. It was made of an incredibly ancient stone, the stones fit together so perfectly that even the finest sheet of paper could not fit between them. They were blackened with age, covered with the mold and mildew of the swamp.
Lengthy vines trailed their forms from the rooftop far above. Two pillars defined the main entrance to the temple, each pillar being cared with obscene symbols of the darkest of magics.
The wizard stood looking at the entrance which showed nothing but a total blackness beyond the doorway, a blackness that seemed to draw in any surrounding light and prevented it's escape. He saw one of the common feline animals of the swamp nearby. Casting a spell he quickly placed the animal under his control and directed it to walk through the open doorway. It moved totally under his command and, within moments, began to walk through the open passage.
Suddenly there was a burst of blackness flooding out from the interior of the temple. It engulfed the animal and seconds later the blackness moved away, leaving behind a pile of bones and a bleached-white skull.
'So their powers are very strong,' the wizard hissed to himself. 'Good. I mean to have that power for myself.' He looked at the girl and added, 'and that will be soon.'
He moved slowly nearer the door and stopped only a few feet away from the entrance. From within his cloak he pulled out a dark gemstone and held it in front of him.
'Hear me, oh gods of darkness,' he said, his voice booming through the fetid swamp. ”I have the gem of darkess once owned by Shothar-alberal himself. You must allow me and my gift to you to pass unharmed through your gateway. Heed, and do my bidding.'
The wizard was sweating, not entirely from the effects of the heat. Th egirl stood by his side, her mind registering nothing of the vents that were happening around her, aware only of the orders from her captor.
Suddenly the doorway seemed to be filled with two glowing malevolent red eyes, eyes that blinked once, then twice at the wizard. A harsh, croaking, horrible voice spoke from within the bowels of the temple.
'Enter, wizard, if you dare.' The air was suddenly filledwith a hiedous cackling as of some form of vilely obscene laughter.
The wizard took a deep breath and began to move forward, still holding the gemstone in front of him. 'Come, girl,' he commanded. 'Your destiny awaits within.'
Chapter 2: Rebirth of a Planet
'It was a dark time for our peoples, the gentle voice began. The speaker was Taren, Keeper of Histories. She was an elderly Gelfling, her long hair nearly all white, hanging loose over her faded cloak. She spoke to a small group of Gelfling young, children born since the healing of the crystal, and before that time. The Gelfling lacked formal schools, but parental instruction and visits to the Keeper of Histories told they all they needed to learn about Gelfling life and customs.
'Seven circles of seven wise ones,' Taren continued, 'lit the fires of prophecy and lay on the Hills of Decision all night. the Goddess answered their prayers and her energy flowed through them. The Wall of Destiny appeared here in our capital of Tarakendal, complete with the inscriptions and drawings you see before you.'
The children made small sounds of awe as they gazed at the wall, before which the keeper was standing.
'The Goddess showed them the healing of the crystal by Gelfling hand,' she continued, her face showing a small frown, but She also showed them other possibilities, for there were many future histories. In some of them the Great Crystal was healed, but in most of the histories the the Crystal reamined damaged and the Skeksis grew ever greater in power.'
The children shrank back from the wall, clinging to the skirts their mothers wore. One child, a beautiful blonde-headed girl, clung to the skirt belonging to one of the Gelfling who helped heal the Crystal, Kira. Karela, the child, had been born to Jen and Kira a few years after the healing of the Crystal, and she was not yet seven, just barely old enough to listen to the speeches of the Keeper.
Kira smiled down at her and hugged her head closer. Nearby stood Alera, physically quite similar to Kira in appearance, and she was also gently touching the head of a blonde Gelfling, her daughter, Almera. Both children hugged their mothers and returned their gazes to Taren.
'In our reality,' Taren continued, 'the Great Crystal was heralded and our world with it. the strange beats and plants that had arisen from the cracked Crystal disappeared and everything returned to normal. The ability to fly was restored to female Gelfling and the great rebirth of our culture began.'
Taren smiled at the children and gently touched the hair of one of the closer male children.
'The first thing we had to face,' Taren began, 'was the second threat to our peoples, a hideous creature that came her from another planet. A brave Gelfling, Mark son-of-Elizabeth, faced this evil with his bondmate Alera and together they sent it back to the darkness from which it came.'
With this the children looked at Alera, wonder on their faces. She blushed and smiled, then the yall returned their attention to Taren.
'The Skeksis had thought they had killed all the Gelfling,' she said, 'but they were wrong. Jen and Kira survived and were joined later by Jora and his tribe. Then, as the years passed, other Gelfling returned to our capital from very far away. Three trine had passed since the healing of the Crystal and our Queen, Serena I, was crowned. Jora became her consort and the rebuilding of Tarakendal began in earnest. The Wall of Destiny was dept as Jen and Kira had found it, preserved as a memorial to all those Gelfling who had died during the Dark Millenium.'
Taren sat down on a chair and asked the children if they had any questions they would like to ask.
'Who was our greatest Queen?' one of the young female Gelfling asked.
'Shalana the Wise,' Taren answered without hesitation. “She was one of our earliest Queens. In her rign our art and music advanced very far. The greatest of all our artists, Shelon, lived during her reign. Yet we have had many other great queens. Ariel I had Tarakendal built so that the gelfing would have a center for our art and music. Shalan V was known as the most beautiful of all our queens. Sharla II organized the greatest Festival of Crafts we have ever seen. there have been many good queens, children.'
After that Taren stood and thanked the children and then left. The mothers took their young back to their homes, Kira taking Karela to visit Jen who was busy working with the podlings gathering food outside the city. Within a short time they ahd arrived and watched as the podlings and Jen quickly picked dyllorkin and various gourds for the gourd must treat the podlings would fix for their dinners.
Alera, meanwhile, had left Almera with a friend of hers and had walked further afield, beyond the harvesting podlings. She found Mark sitting quietly by a stream.
'Bondmate,' Alera called softly. 'What is it you are thinking of?'
Mark smiled at her, the love evident in the way his eyes watched her every move. 'I think of how much I have learned since coming to Thra,' he answered, 'and of how I only became truly alive here. And I think of how much I love you.' He rose and took her hand in his, then pulled her gently towards him.
She pushed against him with her body and broke away, then ran a short distance, laughing as she did so. She stopped and looked at him, a mischievous smile on her face. She began to dance, turning and twisting with great graace. She approached him, brushing her hair against his face, then she danced away. Mark knew that this was the start of the mating ritual and that, as a male Gelfling, he would follow Alera's lead.
Female Gelfling chose the time of their ability to have children. The mating ritual could be used simply for the sexual pleasure and closeness both Gelfling found it it, or for opening the female Gelfling to pregnancy. The Gelfing could have sexual intercourse without the ritual, but the ritual was the height of pleasure, closeness and love for the Gelfling.
The natural body perfume produced by the female Gelfling differed for the two types of dance, and in this case Mark could tell that it was Alera's opening herself to pregnancy that had initiated this particular ritutal.
Alera removed her clothing and her wings unfolded behind her. They began to flutter as she rose, flying near to him adn then away, enticing him with her presence and her bodily perfumes.
Mark removed his clothing and a few moments later Alera landed near him. She touched him softly on his should and he sank to his back on the ground. She quickly mounted him and then began the most intense part of the ritual.
Chapter Three: The Deal
The wizard and his prisoner entered the temple slowly. As they encountered the darkness they could feel it on their skins, pressing in upon them, threatening to smother them with its foulness.
At first they walked in absolute darkness, but gradually that began to give way to a sickly yellow illumination, then changed to a reddish--tinged light.
Everywhere they looked they saw evidenec of the temple's dedication to evil. Rotting pieces of unrecognizable meat, bits of skeletons and pieces of fabric seemed to litter the entire surface of the floor they walked upon.
Hideous iconographic portraits hung on the walls, the bodies shown in the portraits twisted and distorted, blasphemous mockeries of the humanoid form. Each figure was shown devouring some other form of creature, or spreading death and disease everywhere they went.
After what seemed like an eternity they found the main chamber of the temple. The light inside seemed slightly brighter than that in the corridors. In the center of the room was a circular pit with a smaller circular area in the middle, a flame rising from that circle lending its reddish luminescence to the room. The walls of the chamber were unadorned except for a few torches and what appeared to be a layer of dried blood.
Twenty feet from the larger circular pit stood a series of four statues arranged at the ardinal points of the planet. The statues were representations of the dark gods of the temple and were so horrible in appearance that even Bal-maron turned away in disgust.
Finally he caught himself, turned slowly and spoke to the flame in the center of the pit.
'I have come, oh great gods of darkness, to offer you this choice sacrifice.' With that he moved to the hypnotized girl so that she stood next to him. He then stripped away her clothing. The red light reflected wildly off the curves of her naked body.
'The girl is young and a virgin,' the wizard continued, 'for you to do with as you please.'
Silence followed, and then a nauseating sulfurous stench drifted through the room. Suddenly a harsh, cracked deep voice rumbled from the center of the flame.
'We do with all as we please, wizard,' the voice spoke.
The wizard cringed slightly but then began to move the gemstone in a circular pattern, all the while muttering arcane words, completing a spell of summoning that he had mentally begun as soon as he had entered the foul room.
'I have come to serve you,' the wizard began. 'This sacrifice is proof of my sincerity. I wish to become your high priest, to spread your power through the stars.'
'You come to serve yourself,' the voice said angrily. 'We can read your puny mind and know your deepest thoughts and fears. You seek power and petty revenge. We know your kind well.'
'Very well,' the wizard relied coldly, his own anger rising. 'If you are not interested in the sacrifice I offer or the chance to spread your influence once again through the universe then I will leave you and go elsewhere.'
'You will stay,' thundered the voice. 'The sacrifice is pleasing to us in appearance and should prove nourishing. We shall feed and then discuss your future.'
With that, an amorphous shape rose from the flame, a cloud of light mixed with darkness, floating slowly towards the captive girl. The wizard moved away as the cloud slowly descened on her. She screamed once and then fell.
Bal-maron watched the cloud as it covered the girl, remained there for a few moments more and then rose, brighter and darker than before , and then returned to the flame.
Where the girl had laid there was now only dust.
'We propose a deal,' a new voice said. 'We will give you the power you seek. In return you will agree to travel throughout the worlds, finding us choice victims and returning them here through a spell of transportation. You will do all in your power to influence others to begin worshiping us as was done in the days of old.'
The wizard smiled slightly to himself, and then spoke. 'What happened to all those who worshiped you once?'
'Most of those,' the reply began, 'were put to death eons agao in a vast war against our followers. The few who survived have been too weak to add to our power. The more worshipers we have, the more our power grows.'
'Is that all you would have me do?' the wizard asked.
'There is one task more,' the voice replied. 'There is a Great Crystal. It occurs in many dimensions at once, even in our own. It was broken and dark for a thousand years but recently it has been healed. We must have that Crystal returned to its darkened state, for only that way can it help serve our cause.'
'We can regain our rightful place in the universe through one such as you, wizard,' a third voice spoke.
'I will not fail you,' the wizard replied.
'Then prepare yourself,' the original voice intoned. The wizard's body suddenly stiffened as the flame grew higher. The room was filled with a greenish mist that spread out from the center pit and coalesced around his body. The mist danced and darted around him, covering him completely.
A few moments later the mist cleared and the wizard's eyes blinked as he once again became aware of his surroundings. He could now feel new power coursing through his veins, new knowledge implanted into his mind, new spells at his command. He turned and walked briskly from the temple, never once looking back.
He spent years practicing his new skills, honing his talents to a razor's edge. When he felt he was ready he returned to Allengore to carry out his revenge against those he felt had mocked him or had been jealous of his talents, but he found only ruins everywhere, only rock and dust forming the barren landscape.
He cared not how they had died on his planet; his triumph over his enemies was complete. He need not waste any more time. He would make the Great Crystal useful once again to his masters.
Chapter Four: The Wizards of Allengore
Something tugged at the corner of Mark's mind, forcing him to become awake. He was cuddled closely with Alera who was still sleeping from the effects of their lovemaking. Mark blinked his eyes a few times and looked around. A few feet away stood an old woman, humanoid in appearance, clothing in a long, flowing white robe. He stood up and carefully approached the woman.
'Greetings, Mark of the Gelfling,' said the old woman, raising one hand in some form of greeting.
'Who are you?' Mark asked, puzzled by the old woman's appearance. She did not resemble anyone he knew either from Thra or from Earth. (Remember; Mark was originally a human.)
'I am Tal-sheena, of Allengore,' she replied. 'That is, I am a projection of her reality. I have been sent ot warn you of a great danger to Thra.'
'What danger?' Mark asked. No matter how closely he looked at the woman, her entire body seemed to constantly shimmer, as would a mirage on the desert.
'I and others of my kind come from the world of Allengore,' the woman continued. 'We lived on a planet in a universe where magic, rather than science, ruled. We became the most advanced wizards in that universe, and we used all our powers for the benefit of others. But our single greatest accomplishment is here on Thra. We created you Great Crystal.'
'Why did you create it here, rather than on your own world?” Mark asked.
'We found that your universe was also based on magic, and that Thra was even more magical than our world of Allengore,' she replied. 'The spells we used created a Crystal so powerful that shadow copies of the Great Crystal appeared in many other dimensions. The copies themselves are quite strong, but still do not approach the power of the one true Crystal.'
'Then where were you when the urSkeks came and entered the Crystal? Why didn't you stop the Crystal from being used by the Skeksis to kill Gelfling and pervert this planet to their own foul ends?'
The old woman bowed her head for a moment and then replied, her voice now showing deep sadness. 'We had left Thra many millenia ago'; she began. We wanted to leave the planet to develop naturally. Although we will help anyone who asks for our aid, we do not believe in trying to control people or things. So, we had kept watch on many worlds, including your Thra.'
'Then we began to face difficulties on our own world. One of our own number turned to the powers of darkness and began using his magical abilities to spread evil. He was one of the greatest of our wizards and we searched long and hard, many of our members trying desperately to find the warped one, only to find him and pay for that with their lives. Then our planet became the focus of a war.'
'Bal-maron, the evil one, aligned himself with other wizards who had chosen to follow evil and do his bidding. He also swayed various other planets to align themselves with him, and the wizards attacked using their magic, and their supporters, aliens from a variety of worlds, attacked using their science.'
'It was a long and terrible war. Our planet lay in ruins, most of our kind dead. Still, we took a great toll of the enemy and those that were left withdrew. We knew it would be only a matter of time before Bal-maron formed another army, so we chose to flee Allengore and have been in hiding since.'
'Somehow, some of the energy from that battle leaked through the barrier separating our universes and made its way to your planet. It is that energy which is responsible for your being transported to Thra, and for becoming a Gelfling. '
Mark stood and thought for a moment. 'I see. On Earth, Thra was a place that was totally fictional. I really loved the story and the movie, and apparently the energy somehow sensed that and brought me here.'
'What is fantasy in your own world is, at times, reality in this or other universes,” Tal-sheena spoke. 'Sensitive people in your world of Earth may pick up the psychic energies from places such as Thra and then, in their dreams, sometimes come to actually see an alternate reality which they later write about as fiction, not realizing that their pretend worlds are actually real.'
'Why didn't you heal the Crystal?” Marked asked.
'By then,' Tal-sheena replied, the few of us that remained had found shelter and we were not in any shape to use magic. Our recovery has taken a long time and been very difficult. If my powers were at full strength, I would be standing before you in my physical body rather than in a psychic projection of my body. We were overjoyed when Jen and Kira were able to heal the Crystal and restore peace to Thra.'
Tal-sheena looked around a few moments, and then turned her attention back to Mark. “Bal-maron is coming to Thra to find a way to pervert the Great Crystal to his own uses. He will net nothing stop him in his drive for ever greater power.'
'You may be the one thing that can stand against him. You are unique, like nothing he has ever experienced. You have memories of your life on Earth, and yet you are also a true Gelfling. You have the Talisman of Power, and your body is linked tightly to Thra itself, that done at the moment the Great Crystal changed you. You must find a way to stop him. If you fail, he could gain control of the Great Crystal and cause untold suffering to Thra and countless other planets.'
Mark heard a soft sound behind him and saw that Alera was beginning to awaken.
'I will do all that I can,” he said.
'Let us pray it will be enough,' Tal-sheena replied. 'There are still powers within you that you have not yet tapped,' she added hastily. 'You need to go once again to the Crystal Castle and attune yourself to the Great Crystal. Become aware of all your powers. You will need all the strength that you can find.' She looked at Alera who was not stretching and spoke quickly. 'I must go. May the Goddess protect you,' she finished, and then faded away like a dream.
Mark walked over to Alera and, as she stood, he hugged her tightly.
Chapter 5: The Evil Enters
Bal-maron appeared in the midst of a rocky valley. Tall walls of stone surrounded him on two sides, the walls narrowing in the distance, forming two small entrances to the valley. The dark wizard looked around, a grim determination evident on his face. Slowly his hands rose in teh air while a steady stream of arcane words poured form his lips.
Light flashed at the tip of his fingers, then darted out to a place near the valley. Quickly it elongated and grew nearly to the very top of the valley. After a short time it dimmed, and where there had been nothing but plants and small rocks, there now stood a castle formed of black stones. A deep moat surrounded the structure while a single drawbridge slowly lowered to admit the renegade wizard.
The castle was nearly as dark inside as out, with few lights lending illumination the interior. He made his way swiftly to his study and, once there, consulted his scrying mirror.
In the middle appeared an image of the Great Crystal within the Crystal Castle.
'It is the one,' Bal-maron hissed, his voice full of menace. 'After all these years I have finally built enough power to take on the Great Crystal itself. I can use its power to crush those who call themselves 'dark gods.' I, and I alone, will take their place and run the universe as I see fit.'
He spoke some more arcane terms and the image in the mirror shifted, this time showing the other wizards of Allengore, still trapped within the dimension they had fled to. 'Good,' he said. 'Those useless old fools are still caught in their own web. I'll face no challenge from them.'
The image flickered again. The castle was shown for the second time, but in this case it had a pulsing white light surrounding the entire castle. 'A force field,' Bal-maron said, almost spitting the words out. 'I should have known the Crystal would have its own defenses active now that it has been healed. Still, given time I will be able to get past that barrier and get the power of the Great Crystal for myself.'
Another spell and still more images appeared in the mirror, this time of the Podlings and the Gelfling.
'Primitives,' Bal-maron said. “It will be easy enough to control them. Perhaps they will provide me with some amusement after I've used the power of the Great Crystal to take my rightful place as the ruler pf the entire cosmos.
Another spell and Aughra's observatory became visible, Aughra busily working on her calculations.
The wizard studied the image of the old woman, then snorted in contempt. 'She dabbles in things yet thinks she knows much,' he began. 'Still, perhaps she may still prove of some use to me. If not, I can eliminate her with no problems.'
After another series of words the image in the mirror shifted to show Mark and Alera in Tarakendal. The wizard cast another spell and the air around Mark seemed to shimmer with much the same colors as did the air around the Crystal Castle itself. Mark's talisman shown as a bright beacon on his chest.
'There could be danger from that one,' Bal-maron said. “He might prove difficult. His body contains power and is linked to yet greater power.' He stood and thought for a moment, and then continued. “I see that he is tied in to that female being. Perhaps through her I can come to control him. If not, I will simply destroy them both.'
The wizard turned away from the mirror and walked to a bronze tripod placed in the center of the room. He reached into a pocket of his robe and took out some fine crystalline powder, then threw it onto the tripod. Instantly the power burst into flame, the flame showing a sickly reddish color. Another spell came from his lips, and then there was silence.
After a few minutes odd sounds began to drift through the corridors, and a short time later various animals filed into the room, each with eyes that were staring, the minds behind those eyes caught in the hypnotism of the wizard's spell. They stood in a semicircle on the other side of the tripod as Bal-maron smiled. He waited a moment and then threw a purplish powder into the tripod's flame.
There was a flash of light and, when it dimmed, Bal-maron could see that his spell had worked. The animals had mutated into hideous distortions of their natural selves, all with large wings and slavering jaws.
He moved one hand and behind him the images of Aughra, Podlings, Gelfling and Alera all appeared in the mirror.
'Go fourth, servants of darkness,' Bal-maron intoned, his voice deep and rich, echoing through the castle's corridors. 'Seize these beings you see before you and bring them her to me. Go now, and do my bidding.'
With that the room was filled with the rustling of wings as the mutated beings rose and flew off through the corridor's to the castle's exit. Not a single sound came form their lips as they flew off to fulfill their master's orders.
Bal-maron smiled, then left the chamber to prepare for his coming visitors.
Chapter 6: The Ultimatum
Mark entered the throne room of the Queen's castle in Tarakendel. The room was the largest in the city, the walls covered with beautiful tapestries depicting scenes of domestic life andd agricultural activities. The floor of the room was covered with a thin layer of topsoil so that the Gelfling nobility could always remember their close ties to the planet itself.
The Queen, Serene I, sat on a throne carved from a single piece of jade-like stone. Her hair was longer than any other Gelfling in the city and hung in golden tresses over her shoulders and down across the front of her grass-green robes.
To her left stood See-er, the elderly prophet of the tribe of Jora. See-er had been a prophet his entire life, and it was his warning of impending doom that encouraged a tribe of Gelfling to leave the settled areas and seek shelter elsewhere. The shelter they eventually found was deep within chambers carved out of a mountain, chambers carved by no race known to the Gelfling. The female leader of the tribe was killed in an accident, and the remaining members of the tribe then consulted amongst themselves and, led by a vision from See-er, they broke with tradition and chose Serena as the leader, and it became she and See-er who led the tribe back from the mountain when the Crystal was healed.
Jora was her consort, a strong, handsome Gelfling, who had helped her rebuild the city and led the Gelfling back to the type of life that they had remembered.
Mark was on bended knee in front of the throne, his head bowed in humbleness before his Queen.
'Rise, young one,' the Queen said, her voice strong and with a hint of playfulness about it. 'What brings you to this court?'
Mark stood up, facing the Queen, his hands held tightly in front of him.
'I have been given a warning,' Mark said, his voice somewhat shaky. All Gelfling held their Queen in awe, the Queen being the supreme matriarchal figure of their entire society. All Queens had about them an aura of power and love, and all Gelfling honored and respected their Queens and would willingly die for them if the necessity arose.
The Gelfling believed that the Queen ruled by the will of the Goddess. A Queen's daughters could choose to become Queen in their own time, or to pass the position of Queen on to someone else.
If that option was chosen, a Gathering of the Tribes was held during which the various leaders of the Gelfling tribes would assemble in Tarakendal and, in a great ceremony of power, hold hands and link themselves physically to the planet and to the Goddess. As image of the female that was to become Queen would appear to all of them, and then the new Queen would be crowned at the end of the ceremony.
The Queens seemed to possess some genetic or physical traits that endowed them with great abilities of leadership. There was no formal bureaucracy as such in Gelfing society, no forms of political parties or vested interest groups, no lobbyists trying to curry favor for their overlords.
All Gelfling were telepathically linked to each other in various degrees, and to the planet itself. The Queen would make any decisions that needed to be made in settling new areas, planting new crops or any other things that might arise in a primarily agricultural society. She was also the judge at all Festivals of Crafts which the Gelfling loved to hold, during which their greatest musicians and artists would compete.
The Queen was also the chief healer of all Gelfling, her powers being far above those of a regular tribal healer such as Alera. Once Mark had been brought to the Queen, suffering nightmares from memories he still had of Earth. The Queen had healed him of the terrors and he had never had a nightmare since.
Mark and Alera were quite close to the Queen, and the Queen had helped Alera to develop her own healing powers. The Queen had also taken a motherly interest in Mark, sensing the deep loneliness and sorrow he had experienced as a human and helped him adjust to his new life as a Gelfling.
The Queen's eyes looked deeply into Mark's. 'What form of warning?” she asked.
'A wizard has appeared to me,' he began. 'She was from another planet. She said one of her kind had turned to the ways of evil and had come here to Thra to take the Great Crystal for his own.'
'This is not the first I have heard of this danger,' the Queen replied. 'See-er has told me of a vision he had of great danger and much suffering.' The Queen looked at See-er, then Jora, then turned her attention to Mark.
'We will make what preparations we can,' the Queen said. 'You are to go to Aughra's and make further study of the talisman you bear. I have talked to Aughra and she says you have made much progress in understanding the talisman given you by the urRu. Perhaps that will prove of great help to us. Meanwhile I will order all other Gelfling tribes warned.'
'I will go at once, my Queen,' Mark replied, bowing. Then he turned and left the chamber to begin his journey to Aughra's.
Aughra's observatory lay northeast of the city, and it was several hours later before Mark arrived on Aughra's hill.
He stared up at the observatory and then began the climb along a rough path that play up the mountainside. It was some time later before he finally stood outside the observatory's entrance.
'Aughra,' he called. 'It's Mark.' He waited, but there was no reply from inside. He approached the doors and touched them gently. They opened and revealed the shambled interior of the observatory. Tables were overturned, beakers broken, and there was a great hole in the observatory dome on the far side of the room. Of Aughra there was no sign.
He entered, trying to determine what had happened. Suddenly a horrid flapping sound came from above and Mark looked up. He saw a vile, twisted creature perched on the dome. It stared down at him with red eyes, then began to croak out its message.
'The one you seek has been taken by my master,' it began. 'We have taken others of your kind, and your bondmate.'
'What have you done with Alera?' Mark spoke, the anger in his voice growing by the second.
'She will not be harmed if you cooperate with us,' the creature said. Suddenly it tossed down a piece of paper. As the Gelfling stooped to pick it up the creature continued.
'Here are the directions to my master's castle,' it began. 'You have three days to come there of your own free will and do my master's bidding. If you fail to come he will kill all those he now holds and will then bring death to others elsewhere on this planet.
With that the creature rose and flew off, leaving behind the ruins of Aughra's observatory and the unwavering gaze of a silent Gelfling.
Chapter 7: The Spirit of Thra
Mark knew he must return to Tarakendal and warn the other Gelfling about what had happened. Then he would set out to the wizard's stronghold. Mark took one last look around the shattered room and then stepped out the doors. Instantly his body was bathed in a soft mist and he disappeared.
Moments later he reappeared in the Crystal Chamber, facing the great crystal. Mark blinked his eyes and shook his head, clearing it of the dizziness that remained form his unexpected journey to the castle.
As he looked at the Great Crystal he saw a mist form within, and then a face appeared in that mist, the face of a beautiful woman. She began to speak in a warm, soft, spring-like voice that echoed gently from the walls of the chamber.
'I am Thra,' the voice began, the eyes of the woman looking directly into Mark's. 'I am the spirit of the planet and of all those who have lived here throughout the ages. When the Great Crystal was shattered my spirit was trapped, but with the healing of the Crystal I was again free. I have seen what has happened, Gelfling, and I have brought you here to tell you that I will help you in your battle against the evil one.'
Mark told he he was determined to stop the wizard, and of freezing all the Gelfling he had taken, including Alera.
'The wizard intends to use those you love against you, if he can,' the spirit of the planet spoke. 'If he should somehow gain control of the crystal then he may learn how to use it for his evil purposes. The wizards thoughts are set on greed, hate and destruction. I will be with you, little one. You must be brave. Now I will send you to Tarakendal where you can warn the others.'
'But how will I find you?' Mark asked. 'And what should I do to stop the wizard?'
The face within the crystal smiled and then a mist formed around Mark's body. Moments later the mist cleared and Mark stood outside the entrance to the Queen's throne room.
Mark could see out in the street that there was much hurrying to and fro. Gelfling were rushing, fear etched deeply upon their faces. Mark turned and then entered the throne room, seeing that the Queen,, Jora and See-er had already assembled.
Mark walked quickly to the foot of the throne and knealt. 'I have returned, my Queen,' he said, 'bearing foul news.'
'And we all have to greet you with is equally foul tidings,' she replied. 'Tell us of your news first.'
'Aughra and my bondmate have been taken captive along with others,' Mark began. 'A winged demon told me that I must cooperate with an evil wizard who has come to Thra and that, if I don't, they will all be killed.'
'The demons have appeared within our city,' Serena began. They took several Gelfling captive and flew away with them into the distance. We did not know that your bondmate and Aughra had also been taken. That is foul news indeed.'
Mark then explained about how he saw the image of Thra in the Great Crystal. The queen studied Mark for a few moments. 'I understand,' she began. 'You are tied quite deeply to the spirit of this planet. It was the Great Crystal that changed your human form into that of a Gelfling, and the talismen of the urRu seems to draw upon our planet's energies to channel them through you. This is very good news indeed.'
At that moment Jen and Kira entered the room. 'Forgive us, my Queen,' Kira said, 'but we were outside waiting permission to talk to you and we overheard what was said.' With that Kira walked to Mark and then hugged him tightly against her.
'I'm sorry, Mark,' she said. 'Alera is like a sister to me.' Both Jen and Kira said that they would go with Mark to face the wizard.
'I would send more people with you,' the queen spoke, 'but I sense that this is a danger that you must face with only your closest friends about you. We shall get our people to whatever safety they kind find while you journey to the wizard's lair. May the spirit of Thra be always with you.'
'Thank you, my queen,' Mark replied. 'We shall make our preparations and leave before nightfall.'
Chapter 8: Tools of Horror
Bal-maron had placed Alera and the other Gelfing under strong hypnotic spells. Using his powers he read the deepest fears in their minds. Then he summoned more forest creatures into his chamber and once again lit the bronze tripod. Casting powerful spells he changed the forest creatures into Skeksis and Garthim.
The wizard looked at his creations and smiled. 'So these are the objects of your greatest fear,' he said quietly. 'They will do as the instruments of your destruction quite well.'
He commanded the creatures to leave and guard the castle entrance, then he turned to the hypnotized gelfling. 'I wil creature more of these creatures,' he began. 'Then I shall send them against your people and the Podlings. It should prove most amusing to me to watch them destroy your primitive cultures.'
Bal-maron turned and walked to his scrying mirror. Muttering arcane terms the mirror once again misted, then cleared, revealing an image of Jen, Kira and Mark approaching the castle in the distance.
He called back his creatures and told they to seek out and destroy Jen and Kira, but to bring Mark to him alive. The creatures left the chamber and made their way towards the approaching Gelfling, still in the distance.
Some time later Mark spotted the creatures approaching. He told Jan and Kira to take cover under their landstriders. Meanwhile, he got off his landstriker, removed his shirt and revealed the talisman. As Jen and Kira watched they could see flashes of light moving through the ground to Mark's legs, then up his body and down the arm he was holding towards the Skeksis and Garthim. There was a sudden flash of light, a deep rumbling sound, and a whirling of dust.
When they could open their eyes they saw Mark still standing. Some distance away, the bodies of the Skeksis and Garthim were spread out, their forms torn apart and burned. Mark had sat down on the ground.
'Are you all right?' Kira asked.
'I'll be fine in a little bit,' he replied. 'Using the talisman seems to take a lot out of me, but I should be better soon.'
Back at the castle, Bal-maron was watching the aftermath of the short battle. 'That Gelfling is stronger than I thought,' he said. 'He may prove someone of a challenge to yet.'
At the scene of the attack Mark was talking to Jen and Kira. 'It would be best for you if you went back to Tarakandel,' he began. 'This is probably just the first of the wizard's suprises for us. I can't guarantee I will be able to destroy all the monsters he sends.'
'We're not going back,' Kira said. 'We're going to stay with you.' Jen nodded his head in agreement.
'All right,' Mark said. 'Together then.' The three Glefling mounted their landstriders and set off towards the wizard's stronghold.
It did not take them long to reach the castle and find more Garthim and Skeksis outside, guarding the entrance. They looked carefully but could see no other way to get into the castle and past the monsters.
'The only way into the castle is to go through them,' Mark said in a determined voice. This time he remained on his his landstrider, and called upon the planet's energy. Again he raised his hand and shot energy out of his fingertips. As the energy intersected with the monsters they began to explode and, before long, all that was left of the castle's defenders was a pile of ash.
Yet again he was weakened. 'You need rest,' Kira said in her soft voice.
'Rest takes time,' Mark replied,' and time is something we have very little of. The wizard can creature more creatures and, sooner or later, they would overrun us by sheer force of numbers. We must move quickly before that can happen.'
The three Gelfling moved cautiously towards the castle's entrance, but no other forms of life appeared to try and stop them. Within a few minutes they were within a large chamber, trying to determine what to do next.
Suddenly walls descended from the ceiling, separating the three Gelfling. Trap doors opened beneath Jan and Kira, droping them into subterranean cells while Mark was left on his own to search the castle's corridors.
Jen felt into a dark and fetid cell. He got slowly to his feet and began to look around. A single torch was lit and in a few minutes he had used that one torch to light several others he found in the same room. As he did he spotted something in a distant corner of the cell.
It was a fungus-like mass of greenish-black material that seem to pulsate, its pulsating increasing as Jen approached. Suddenly the mass split apart, each part quickly growing to the size of the original mass. As it did it split again and grew, then continued to split, each time taking up more and more room in the cell.
The face of the wizard appeared on the cell's wall and looked down at Jen. 'You've met my get, I see,' the wizard's voice began. 'My pet has spurts of growth; from time to time it will reproduce as rapidly as it is doing now.'
The wizard was silent for a moment and then continued. 'I wouldn't advise touching it. The creature thrives on flesh. Sooner or later it will corner you and then flow over your body. Within moments you will be reduced to a mass of oozing tissue which the creature will then absorb into itself.
With that the image of wizard disappeared. Jen took one of the torches and thrust it at one of the creatures but it just drove forward and engulfed the torch, seemingly unhurt. Jen fell back, retreating to a far corner of the cell, waiting and watching as the creatures continued their hideous pulsing.
The moment Kira hit the floor of her cell she was grabbed by a bony hand and thrust into a chair, then quickly secured so she could not escape. As she looked around in panic she saw a Skeksis, a perfect double for Skektek the scientist.
“Now, kefflink,' the scientist said in his raspy voice. 'I shall finish what I started before.'
A dark red crystal on a stand near the far side of the room lit up as the Skeksis threw a level set into the wall. The crystal glowed brighter and then sent a series of beams directly into Kira's eyes. She struggled to escape and cry out.
'It is useless to struggle, little one,' the Skeksis said. 'The beam will soon drain you of all your will. You will become a mindless animal that my master can use for his own pleasures.' The Skeksis chuckled evilly to himself and watched as the beam did its work.
Meanwhile Mark followed corridor after corridor in what seemed to be an endless search for the wizard. Finally, though, he came to a lage circular room. In the center of the room stood Bal-maron dressed in a long, red robe.
'I have been waiting, Gelfling,' he said. “I have an interesting proposal for you. If you help me learn how to control the Great Crystal I shall spare the lives of your friends and I will leave your world untouched.'
'I swear by the Goddess that I shall never aid you in any way, wizard.'
'You swear too quickly, Gelfing,' Bal-maron replied. 'Watch now, and know that these are no illusions.' The wizard made a gesture with his fingers and three mirrors appeared on the wall. In one he could see Jen backed up against a wall as the fungous growth came ever closer. In the second mirror hecould see Kira, her head drooping under the relentless pressure from the beam. In the third, he could see Aughra shackled to a wall while some kind of gas began to fill the room.
Chapter Nine: The Offer
'I offer you great power,' the sorcerer said. 'You shall have dominion over all the Gelfling and Podlings. You shall have a life of pleasure and plenty.' Bal-maron made a slight movement of his hands and a mist rose in the right part of the room. As Mark watched he could see an image appear in the mist, an image of Alera as Queen of all Gelfing and himself as the real power behind the throne. Beautiful Gelfling daughters, his daughters, stood by the throne in regal array.
'All you have to do is cooperate with me,” the wizard said, 'and all this and more shall be yours. Your bondmate shall reign as Queen and you shall control her and all others if you will but share the power of the Great Crystal with me. The image then showed Mark on a bed with several other Gelfling women. 'You can have all the women you want,' Bal-maron said, 'and all the riches you could ever desire. Everything shall be yours.'
'No,' Mark replied firmly. 'I desire neither power nor control over others. To force others to your will is not the Gelfling way.'
'Power is the greatest thing that there is,' Bal-maron said. 'Let me show you just what power is.' Once again he made a slight movement of his fingers and this time two demons entered the room, dragging Aughra between them.
'What is this old hag's life worth?” Bal-maron asked.
'She is a friend,' Mark replied. 'No price can be set on her life.'
'Not even the price of the Great Crystal?' Bal-maron asked.
'Not even that' Mark replied.
Bal-maron gestured and suddenly fierce flames seemed to consume Aughra's body. Her screams echoed through the castle as Mark watched.
'Do you not care for your friend?' Bal-maron asked.
'What friend?' Mark replied, moving his hand in a cutting gesture. Immediately the flames stopped and Aughra began to change. Within moments she had become just another demon who then left the room with the other two demons.
'An illusion, nothing more,' Mark responded.
'So the talisman does give you some powers,' Bal-maron said. 'Let's see just what the extent of those powers are.' Suddenly the floor opened beneath Mark and he fell into a dungeon room. The floor above him sealed up as he stood. The door to the room he was in was open, so he left the room, entering a short corridor which led only to another door and yet another room. Mark entered cautiously but saw nothing dangerous. He entered the room and the door closed behind him.
Suddenly a hidden door in the wall opened and Alera entered the room. She was nude, her hair wildly disarrayed, a look of intense excitement in her eyes. She began the mating dance, hovering just above the floor of the room, moving more erotically than she ever had before. Despite himself Mark found he was unable to take his eyes from her as she wouold dance near him, brush him with her hair, rub her breasts against him, laugh softly and dance quickly away. The odors she was producing were already exciting him, making him want to forget all else and give himself up to wild abandon with his bondmate.
Alera danced close again to mark, brushing her long hair agaisnt his face. Exercising the last remnants of his self-control Mark stumbled back against the door and then stopped, breathing heavily. Desperately he pushed on the door and it opened. Mark entered the corridor without glancing back, knowing that if he did so all would be lost. He could still hear Alera calling to him as he moved down the corridor to an opening on the left.
The opening led into yet another corridor. Suddenly a giant spider dropped form the ceiling near Mark. its legs moved in an agitate fashion as its spider eyes seemed to glare at the small Gelfling.
Mark grabbed one of the torches lighting the hall and waved it toward the spider which retreated down the corridor with a sickening shriek. Soon other creatures appeared in the corridor and advanced steadily towards him. There was no choice left but to use the talisman powers and once again bolts of energy lanced out from Mark's fingertips, disintegrating the creatures they touched. After the last of the attackers died Mark fell roughly to the floor, exhausted by the ordeal. Slowly he forced himself to his feet and set off further down the passageway.
Finally he came to the room where Aughra was held captive. The door into her cell was locked and he could see through a window in the door that the acid had nearly reached Aughra's feet. Mark grabbed on to one of the torch holders and pulled himself up, then kicked the door as hard as he could. The acid had weakened the door and it shattered under his kick, acid pouring out onto the floor of the corridor and into the earth it was made from. After a few minutes Mark undid his belt and touch the end of it to the floor. Seeing that it sustained no damage he dropped to the floor and then entered the room.
'Knew you would come, I did,' Aughra cackled. 'Get me down. You and I, a lesson we'll teach the dark one.'
Mark saw a set of keys hanging just outside Aughra's reached, placed there no doubt to torment her in her captivity. He grabbed the keys and undid her shackles. Aughra dropped roughly to the floor then stood, complaining all the time.
'Where are others?' she asked.
'I don't know,' Mark replied. I saw Alera, or a demon in her shape, in a room earlier. I don't know where Jen and Kira are. Mark looked at Aughra, then asked her if she could walk.
Aughra groaned and grunted a few times and then shook her head yes. Together they moved off down the corridor and, within a few minutes, found another door. Although the door was locked, the keys left in Aughra's room were able to unlock the door. As soon as they door was opened they could see that Jen had been pushed back to a far corner of the room, nearly surrounded by the green fungus.
Mark had to use more of his talisman's power to clear a path for Jen to escape. They continued to explore but could find no signs of Kira.
'This has been too easy,' Mark said.
'Easy?' Aughra said indignantly. 'Poor Aughra hang on wall. You call that easy?'
'If the wizard had wanted you dead he could have done so long before now,' Mark replied. He paused for a moment and then continued. 'He could have kept sending creatures against us until I was overwhelmed. I think he's just playing some sort of sick game with us.'
At that moment they reached a huge chamber. The ceiling was cured, almost in a parody of a church ceiling. Hundreds of torches burned in holders on the walls. balconies seemed to just out everywhere, while a heavy perfumed mist hunt in the air.
'You are right, Gelfling,' the wizard began. 'I was playing with you like a child plays with its toys. You are nothing more than a game to me.' Suddenly the wizard's hands moved as he uttered a loud spell. A greyish light flew from his fingertips and engulfed Aughra. When the light had cleared Jen and Mark could see that Aughra had been turned to stone.
Before they could react to that they saw Kira enter the room. She was nude, her long hair flowing down over her shoulders. Mating scents poured from her body as she approached Jen. A movement of the wizard's fingers and Jen's clothing fell to the floor. Kira began to kiss the Gelfing passionately, running her hands over his body. As Mark watched he saw the wizard cast another spell and Kira's body began to change.
Jen had begun to respond to Kira's passionate embrace and was holding her tightly against him, his mouth pressed firmly against her breast. What he failed to see was Kira's lower body beginning to change into that of a snake.
Another move of the wizard's fingers and both Gelfling disappeared. 'He will find great pleasure in her arms,' the wizard spoke, and at the height of their sexual excitement she will devour him as a snake devours its helpless prey.'
The wizard looked at Mark. 'Now it is only the two of us,' he said, advancing on the Gelfling. Mark, meanwhile, closed his eyes and concentrated on the image of the Great Crystal and the female face he had seen in it.
'Spirit of Thra,' he called, 'take us from this place. Take us to where no others will be hurt.'
Bal-maron took a few more menancing steps towards Mark and then stopped as a purple mist filled the room. Before he could react the mist covered the wizard and the Gelfling.
When the mist cleared Mark saw that he and the wizard had been transported to the top of a distant mountain. No signs of animals or plants could be seen nearby, so their final battle was to take place where no one else could be hurt.
The face Mark had seen in the Great Crystal now seemed to be looking down on him from far above.
'Tricks will avail you nothing,' the wizard sneered. 'You call upon the spirit of the planet. So be it. I call upon the power of the dark gods and of all that is dark in the universe. You will die, Gelfling, alone and away from those above.'
With that the wizard unleashed a series of fireballs directly at Mark. The talisman on his Mark's chest glowed brightly and energy shot out, deflecting each of the fireballs. Bursts of light form Mark's fingers attacked the wizard but were parried by the wizard's own defenses.
The battle grew in intensity as both combatants tried everything possible to defeat the other. Eventually both ended up bleeding, torn and exhausted, on their knees, still struggling to destroy the other.
'You cannot win,' the wizard gasped. 'I have over a thousand years of experience to draw upon The dark gods will protect me.'
'And I have the love of my friends and my bondmate, and the spirit of Thra behind me. You can never triumph over that.'
Suddenly the wizard changed tactics from his magical assaults to a more physical approach. He jumped at Mark, trying to force the young Gelfling off the cliff. The two grappled fiercely and suddenly both rolled over the cliff's edge.
As they fell Mark could see the wizard change into a fierce hawk. Mark plunged closer to the ground and concentrated as deeply as he could. His body suddenly flared and reformed itself into that of an eagle. Spotting the hawk heading towards the castle, eagle-form Mark chased after him.
The wizard landed in his meditation chamber and returned to his normal form. Mark landed moments after, becoming a Gelfling in the blink of an eye. The wizard ran away and Mark gave chase, noting that Aughra remained petrified. They passed another chamber and Mark could see that Kira had become even more of a snake, her lower body entirely snakelike and her upper body a mottled green with her head hanging to that of a snake. Jen, still under the wizard's spell, continued to nurse Kira's breast, running his hands over her body, not realizing what really was happening.
Passing yet another chamber Mark saw Alera, still doing her dance, still trying to entice him into the room to mate with her.
Anger flared through Mark as passed his friends and his bondmate. Anger such as he had never known stayed with him until he finally caught up to the wizard in another chamber.
'This ends here, this ends now,' said Mark, his voice barely a whisper. The wizard merely laughed as he watched the Gelfling seem to almost freeze, his body going rigid.
'You call the darkness from your universe,' Mark began, his voice slowly rising in strength. 'Yet I am know from this universe. Mark's eyes began to glow. 'I retain ties to not just my home universe, but to many, many others. Many of these have a Great Crystal in them, also. Many of them have seen monsters like yourself attack and be defeated by the powers of goodness, harmony and love. I call upon this universes now. I call upon the power of all the Great Crystals to channel their energies through me and to deal with you and your evil once and for all.'
Bal-moran was not sure what Mark was referring to, but there was no mistaking the brilliant light that now totally engulfed Mark's body and gradually was pushing out into the chamber. Suddenly all the light seemed to concentrate itself into Mark's talisman, running around its edges and down towards the very center. There, the light became unbearable in its brightness, gathering only for a moment before rushing out in one mighty stream directly towards the wizard.
In less than a blink of an eye the light engulfed the evil sorcerer, seeming to explode in its intensity. When the light finally died down and vanished, there was nothing left of the wizard. His dreams of power were once and for all over.
With the death of the wizard the spells that he had cast became undone. Aughra returned to her normal form. Kira's body became her own again as she and Jen held each other as tightly as they could. Alera ran into the room. Suddenly the walls of the wizard's domain began to vibrate and bits began to break off. The Gelfling along with Aughra ran as quickly as they could from the castle.
Soon after they left the castle crumbled into itself. The ground shook and a huge hole appeared beneath the castle and swallowed up its remnants. When the dust cleared no sign of the wizard or his evil structure remained.
Mark and Alera held each other tightly as did Jen and Kira. Aughra stood nearby, watching the Gelfling.
'The wizard's power was based on darkness and evil,' Mark said. 'I used the power of love and of light against him, and love's bright power triumphed. So it was, so it shall ever be.'
The group slowly walked away, heading back towards their own homes, the evil gone and the planet healed.
Love, ultimately, shall triumph.
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